The first two months of 2014 brought long stretches of extreme cold to many regions in the United States due to a persistent polar vortex. As I sympathized with my cross-country colleagues while looking over the stack of persona research data from the relative warmth of California, I thought about a different kind of vortex – the persona vortex.

A vortex is a twisting, spiraling journey down an abyss – hardly an enticing path for B2B marketers to take when it comes to connecting with buyer personas. But it happens. For example, when marketers overanalyze buyer personas and define characteristics not useful in the B2B buying process, they might gather a lot of information, but not the right knowledge that is critical input into three key go-to-market deliverables: the market requirements document, the messaging and the campaign.

Another kind of persona vortex can be found on the Web. Have you ever called into a company’s customer service or tech support center and found yourself being led from menu to menu without ever reaching the option you need or being connected to a human being? The persona Web vortex is a similar experience. The user self-identifies with the target persona, but upon entry to the Web site, he or she finds the navigation path is so narrow and deep that it is difficult to get to the needed information. The persona feels trapped because he or she can’t easily navigate back to the home page or other pages. Ultimately, many users abandon the Web site and have a negative perception about the company’s online experience.

Marketers can avoid this type of persona vortex and connect with target buyers by using these best practices:

  • Define the target persona by focusing on key B2B attributes such as job role, initiatives and challenges, level of engagement, content preferences and watering holes.
  • When creating persona pathways on your Web site, provide multiple topic selections relevant to the persona. Give your audience choices.
  • Design a user interface that allows the persona to navigate along the path, back to the home page, or to other pages of the Web site. Provide flexibility.
  • Engage the persona with relevant messaging and content. Create calls to action and ask for minimal contact information in exchange for the offer.

The frigid weather from the polar vortex has come and gone, and many of the regions affected have returned to normal temperatures. We can’t stop Mother Nature when she unleashes her wrath, but as B2B marketers, we can stop any persona vortex from forming by developing relevant insights about buyer personas and thoughtfully applying that knowledge to create meaningful engagements – both online and offline.